BASIC CHORDS & TRIADS

What are chords? They are, simply put, three or more notes played together to create musical harmony. One can also say that chords are the basic unit of musical harmony.

 

How do we then know which three or more notes go well with each other? Much of the popular music that we hear on the radio today, or jazz, and even a large part of classical music, is based on a system of harmony called Tertian Harmony. As its name suggests, tertian harmonies are formed by stacking third intervals above a given root note. (If you're not sure about what 'stacking third intervals' means yet, be sure to check out our lesson on Intervals first!) For example, if we were to stack two third intervals above a C note, we would get a C major chord: 

A "C" major chord is also called a "C" major Triad as it is made up of three notes. In this lesson, we will be covering six basic type of triads formed by stacking different types of 3rd intervals: 

1. The Major Triad

The Major triad is formed by stacking a major 3rd interval and a perfect 5th interval above the root note. Without a musical context, the sound of the major triad may be described as being happy, bright, or triumphant. The chord symbol for the C major triad is simply, "C".

2. The Minor Triad

The Minor triad is formed by stacking a minor 3rd interval and a perfect 5th interval above the root note. As a standalone triad, the sound of the minor triad may be described as being dark or sad. The chord symbol of the C minor triad is "Cm" or "C-"

3. The Diminished Triad

The Diminished triad is formed by stacking a minor 3rd interval and a diminished 5th interval above the root note. It can be thought of as a minor triad with a flattened 5th. The diminished triad has a sound that is darker than the minor triad. The chord symbol for the C diminished triad is "Cm (-5)" or "C- (b5)" or "  "

4. The Augmented Triad

The Augmented triad is formed by stacking a major 3rd interval and an augmented 5th interval above the root note. It can be thought of as a major triad with a raised 5th. As a standalone chord, the augmented triad has a dreamy quality to it. The chord symbol for the C augmented triad is, "Caug" or "C(+5)" or "C(#5)"

5. The Suspended 4th Triad

The Suspended 4th triad is formed by stacking a perfect 4th interval and an perfect 5th interval above the root note. Unlike the triads that we have discussed so far, Sus4 triads are not formed strictly from stacking thirds. The F note in a Csus4 triad can be thought of as a substitute for the original E note in a C major triad; in many situations, a Sus4 triad is placed right before a major triad of the same root note (e.g. Csus4 going to C), and the F note in the Csus4 acts as a auxiliary or decorative note to the final target note of E in the C major triad. The chord symbol for C suspended 4th triad is "Csus4", or simply "Csus".

6. The Suspended 2nd Triad

The Suspended 2nd triad is formed by stacking a major 2nd interval and an perfect 5th interval above the root note. Like the Sus4, the D note in a a Csus2 can be thought of as a substitute for the original E note in a C major triad. The Sus2 is often used in place a major triad for a more transparent sound in popular music. The chord symbol for the C suspended 2nd triad is "Csus2"

Now that you've leant the basic types of triads, you are ready to move on to our lesson on Seventh Chords!

Our Services

Contact Us

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon

©2018 BY PIANO AT HOME SG | PIANO CLASSES SINGAPORE | PIANO TEACHER SINGAPORE | LEARN PIANO SINGAPORE